Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman

Mr Rosenblum's List (Sceptre) is a first novel for Natasha Solomons. She promised her grandfather, Paul Shields OBE (nee Schwartzshield) on his 90th birthday that she would dedicate her first novel to him and the story takes its inspiration from her grandparents, who arrived in England from Berlin in 1936 virtually penniless. They were given a pamphlet entitled Useful Advice and Friendly Guidance for All Refugees. By 1970, he had received an OBE for services to British industry, having become a successful textile manufacturer. He had also become a successful Englishman. And this is the theme of Natasha's amusing and insightful book, for it contains a great deal of truth about acceptance, bigotry, snobbery and being an outsider.

Natasha lives in Dorset, where her grandparents enjoyed cottage life and, writing about what she knew provided her with the perfect backdrop for Jack Rosenblum's efforts to be accepted as a German Jewish immigrant into levels of middle English society that were firmly closed to him. 'He wanted to be a gentleman not a gent' and 'He could finish The Times crossword in under two hours'. Jack buys a Jaguar XK120. Meanwhile, wife Sadie refuses to obey Rule 108 on his list: to learn bridge and tennis, to have 'nice nails' and a purple rinse on her hair. Sadie would prefer to be in Israel and doesn't support his wild plans until she reaches a rather extreme epiphany.

Jack's successful East End carpet factory, tailored suits and welcome at smart restaurants mean nothing when he fails to achieve his final Rule: No 150. He is refused acceptance at every middle class golf club in the country (except when he applies under the guise of Professor Percy Jones, when he is welcomed with open arms; he approaches the same club secretary as himself and suddenly the club's list is full). 'Twas ever thus. Jack begins neglecting his prosperous business to follow his obsession of building the greatest golf course in the country in a Dorset village.

At this point, we suspend disbelief to follow Jack and Sadie to their country cottage where she enters a world of her own, baking traditional Jewish cakes for the villagers, who love the baking. But she continues to feel like an outsider and what lunatic builds their own golf course?...puh, puh, puh. Daughter Elizabeth keeps a safe distance at university, having changed her surname to Rose.

As we are pulled further down the rabbit hole, we find Jack surrounded by the sort of cast we might expect to find in a Vicar of Dibley episode or Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream's  Rude Mechanicals; or then again, perhaps Jack has peopled himself with characters from the Thomas Hardy novels he's been studying as part of his entry into English culture. A woolly pig, a dastardly knight of the realm and a brew of special cider lead us further into Wonderland and we laugh and cry with each turn of Jack's misfortunes.  It's best to read the rest for yourself for Jack and Sadie encounter a host of obstacles set in their way at every turn. It's full of intrigue and invention; irony and improbability but dig below the surface and under the molehills is lodged a bucketload of truth.

You can visit Natasha's website at http://www.natashasolomons.com/ She's been shortlisted for The Galaxy Book Awards New Writer of the Year Award and the novel is to be made into a film, so mazeltov Natasha. She's currently writing her second book, The Novel in the Viola.

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